ThoughtWorks’ head of technology for retail Giles Alexander takes a look how retailers can change their way of thinking to enable growth.
Today retailers are faced with an important question – how do they break free from the constraints that systems have placed on the direction of their business, and their ability to innovate and adapt?
To answer this, retailers need to move away from implementing systems and think about building a platform. The Platform for Growth model, an overarching retail initiative at Thoughtworks, defines this concept, and is made up of three key parts – strategy, technology and culture.
To start, there needs to be a company-wide strategic vision.
With this, a business can create high-level goals to develop a set of strategic bets. However, focusing only on strategic bets is risky.
Even with careful prioritisation, effective metrics and delivery based solely on those favourable ventures, driving many new products into an organisation will substantially increase the complexity of the business.
The overall vision must also be supported by a clear technology strategy.
When considering the technology needed to carry out long-term plans it is important to look at the investment needed for individual platforms, systems and innovations.
Retailers can then chart the outcomes expected to be delivered by product teams for each area as well as the part each has played in the delivery of the overall strategy.
Rather than talking about technology businesses, which implies that the product of the business is technology, we talk about tech-enabled businesses.
Being tech-enabled means that high-quality technology underpins the key qualities that are at the heart of your business
Giles Alexander, ThoughtWorks
Being tech-enabled means that high-quality technology underpins the key qualities that are at the heart of your business.
To achieve excellence in technology, you must start here.
By mapping the key capabilities of your systems, you will have a clear guide as to where to invest – which systems to improve, where systems should be split apart and where new development should be happening.
Lastly, businesses need to look at what their strongest assets are, what they’re good at and what their teams are passionate about.
They should think about how they want the business and its culture to be positioned, and where it can differentiate.
Businesses can establish teams that can own the entire delivery, with enough autonomy to own the outcome as well
Giles Alexander, ThoughtWorks
Focusing on the company’s capabilities, businesses can establish teams that can own the entire delivery, with enough autonomy to own the outcome as well.
But the most important thing is to own the relationship with their suppliers and their customers.
Only then can your culture become truly outside-in.
Platform for Growth is about empowering teams to build new products and services, offering them up to customers, learning from their successes and failures, and possibly finding an accidental business along the way.
Giles Alexander is head of technology, retail at ThoughtWorks